#BookReview: Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands

Solid Women’s Fiction, Too Reliant On COVID, Unnecessary Element In Epilogue. This is the penultimate entry in the Sail Away “series” where several authors have come together to craft their own unique stories all centered around cruising, with each taking a different bent to it. The cruise Sands uses here is more of a luxury yacht / WindStar type ship sailing the Mediterranean, and the cruising elements here are absolutely breathtaking – particularly for anyone who is even remotely familiar (even from other pop culture sources/ YouTube) with the waters and coasts of the region, from Spain to France to Italy.

Something like a solid 70% of this tale is more women’s fiction based, with a woman trying to rediscover her passion after years of COVID burnout, and through this section, it absolutely works as a women’s fiction tale. The star deduction is because it *is* so heavily focused on COVID and related topics, and any such talk for me is an automatic star deduction because I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. (This noted, it *is* in the description that this will be discussed to some extent or another, but in my defense here… I pre-ordered this entire series months before publication, just on the strength of the authors and my love of cruising generally.)

The romance here, such as it is, feels a bit tacked on and rushed, even in a shorter sub-200 page novel/ longer novella. It works within the story being told to that point, just don’t expect the entire tale here to be the romance. ๐Ÿ™‚ Note that no other element of this tale feels so rushed as this particular element.

And the epilogue. It works. It is what one would expect from a women’s fiction/ romance. But why oh why does seemingly every romance author out there (not *all* of them, but *many*) feel the need to tack in a baby/ pregnancy in these epilogues? Completely unnecessary, and leaves a bitter aftertaste to the tale for those who are childfree (such as myself) or childless (others I know). Yes, there is a difference between the two – childfree largely are happy not having children, childless want them and don’t have them. (A touch of a simplification, but one that works for purposes of *brief* explanation.) Something to look at for authors who may not be aware that these particular groups exist – and thus the inclusion of the pregnancy here in the epilogue wasn’t star-deduction worthy so much as discussion-within-the-review worthy.

Still, overall this book really was quite good, and a solid entry into a fun series. Very much recommended.

This review of Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands was originally written on February 24, 2023.

#BookReview: The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker

Solid Look At A Topic Few Look At – Possibly Benefits From Me Reading It In Audible Form. I’ll be upfront- this was one of my Audible books. Thus, I really have no way of knowing how extensive the bibliography is here, as Audibles never include them. And admittedly, this book *needs* an extensive one, as it makes quite a few quite remarkable claims- and remarkable claims necessitate remarkable documentation. But because I read the Audible and thus have no record of any biliiography for good or ill, I can’t base my rating on something I did not see.

What I *did* see here was a solid look at concepts most – even myself – don’t actively consider, and here Schatzker takes us on a detailed yet intriguing look behind the scenes and gets quite technical indeed… while never losing his readability (at least when having the book read to you). That alone is quite the feat for many science writers, and that he was able to pull this off so well is a mark of a stronger science writer.

Schatzker was also remarkably *balanced*, decrying Big Food and Big Ag for their efforts that led to blandness and loss of flavor over the last several decades while acknowledging that these same efforts are what has enabled humanity to continue to feed itself – and applauding these same groups’ efforts to re-introduce flavor while maintaining as much modern yields as possible. Even here though, he does note – and *arguably* seem to take a touch of glee in – the idea that flavorful, more nutritious foods will always be a few multiples more expensive than more bland, less nutritious foods. Which yes, does allow at least a potential perception of classism, though I note here that I never really felt he was being classist so much as simply a gourmand passionate about truly great food. Indeed, the final pair of chapters, structured around his efforts at a “perfect meal” of sorts, brought the entire narrative together quite well while also being quite visceral in its love of both that meal and telling the tale of it.

Overall a truly intriguing book, and one that even 8 years after initial publication, as I write this review having read this book just this month, still needs to be widely read and… digested. Very much recommended.

This review of The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker was originally written on January 31, 2023.

#BlogTour: For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa

For this blog tour we’re looking at a romantic comedy that deals with more serious topics than most of its genre do. For this blog tour we’re looking at For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Deeper Than Usual Rom-Com. This is one of those rom-coms that starts out light and fluffy and fun – even in an “I’m gonna kill you for that!” way – and then hits on several more substantive issues along the way. And yet, it never feels overly weighed down by any of them, though as with the comedy itself it is very likely that your mileage will vary there. For me, I loved the “behind the scenes” look at the “real-life” stresses of being a TV food show host/ judge… while also running your own restaurant empire off camera. And the constant twitter / google/ other social media feeds were an interesting spin as well, particularly used how they were. Great for foodies or really anyone just looking for a good time – though on *that* note… maybe not so much for the “clean” / “sweet” romance crowd. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa”

#BlogTour: A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana

For this blog tour we’re looking at a fun and flirty foodie romance that packs a bit of bite when it wants to. For this blog tour we’re looking at A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun, Flirty Flight With Serious Undertones. This is one of those books where you take two cultures known for their passions – in this case, the Irish and the Puerto Rican -, mix in a lifetime of not only knowing each other, but having both families remarkably intertwined (platonically) and add a heaping of tragic backstory… and watch everything come together beautifully. The mix of romance tropes works well here, our primary couple is particularly well fleshed out while giving most all of the side characters at least some time to shine, and we even get a clear sense that a series is brewing to boot. This book really does fire on all burners, and when the gut punches of the tragic backstories hit, they land like haymakers. Ultimately a fun book even with the haymakers, this is very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana”

#BookReview: The Man Ban by Nicola Marsh

Snarky Romance Reads Shorter Than Its Actual Length. This is one of those fun, snarky, steamy – yes, there are numerous sex scenes, for those that care either way about such things – romances that doesn’t quite work as a true “enemies to lovers”, since the initial fight is more a miscommunication when these two characters – both introduced in 2020’s The Boy Toy – first meet up in the aftermath of that tale. It officially clocks in at around 350 pages, but Marsh keeps the tale pulsing along so well that this reader never really noticed the actual length and indeed by the end the book feels much shorter. For technically being a Book 2, this is also a fairly loosely coupled “series” – yes, these characters are introduced in the first book, and yes, the first book’s primary couple (and another character or two) appear in this book, but neither is truly dependent on the other and each totally work fine as standalones in a shared universe as well. Overall a fun book, maybe not an “end of summer” book but definitely a fun, summery feel. Very much recommended.

This review of The Man Ban by Nicola Marsh was originally written on June 29, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras

Solid Slow Burn Second Chance Finding Yourself Prodigal Son Story. Think I got enough tropes in that title? ๐Ÿ˜‰ But seriously, this was the second book in Oliveras’ hyper-sensual stories of established adults finding love in the Florida Keys (Key West, specifically) while being bound by their Cuban immigrant parents and siblings. Here, we get the sister of our male lead from Book 1 (Island Affair) and the boy we already know she let go a decade ago from that story. Now, we get a lot more details of what happened according to each of them – and they don’t exactly remember things the same way. Oliveras executes this dynamic well, with having the meddling mothers (seemingly a commonality among *many* cultures, let’s face it ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) conniving to get the two together when the now-man finds himself stranded at home with a shattered leg. As they help each other with their respective issues in their current lives, old wounds get reexamined, sparks begin to fly, etc etc etc… this *is* a romance novel, y’all. That alone tells you where this thing is going. ๐Ÿ™‚

But Oliveras also executes the Prodigal Son angle particularly well, at least from the son’s side. Which I know at least a bit about, having lived my adult life hundreds of miles away from my own parents. (Somewhat interestingly as it relates to this book, while Alejandro grew up in Key West and fled to Atlanta as an adult, this reviewer grew up outside of Atlanta and currently finds himself in Florida – Jacksonville – in what will this year become the longest single place he’s stayed since leaving Atlanta. :D) To be clear, I don’t have *exactly* the same issues Ale does – my dad (and entire immediate family) and I actually get along great. But I know the general feelings and disappointments pretty damn well, well enough to truly sing Oliveras’ praises on this particular storyline.

Finally, to address one criticism that seems common in the lower starred reviews: saying something in Spanish and then explaining it in English: I’m a native American that grew up in land still literally scarred by the American Civil War. While I took a few Spanish classes in high school, I was never even truly conversant, much less fluent. But I’ve studied a lot about a lot, and it is my understanding that such mixtures of languages are common in second generation Americans, as both Annamaria and Alejandro are here. Further, from a “real world” perspective of trying to sell as many copies of a book as possible, English is the most commonly spoken language in the world, for better or for worse. While Spanish is frequent and indeed dominant in certain regions, even many in those regions *also* speak English to some degree or another. And in most of the globe, more people are more familiar with English than Spanish. These are also simple, stone cold, undeniable *facts* – whether or not you like them or the reason they came to be. Thus, from a *business* side, explaining the Spanish in English – and in particular the way Oliveras does it in this series, more as a natural storytelling technique than a “Habla Espanol?” “Do you speak Spanish?” style common in at least some books I’ve read over the years, it makes complete sense. And for this reader that barely knows Spanish at all – the above sentence was a decent part of what I can easily recall, though there is likely a fair amount beyond that that I could comprehend in a situation where I’m surrounded by the language – it is helpful, appreciated, and *necessary*, as there would be large segments of the tale that would be completely unintelligible without the translation. Indeed, from a business side Oliveras’ only other real options would be to 1) limit herself to only Spanish speakers and thus lose overall sales or 2) eliminate the Spanish completely and lose at least a fair degree of the authenticity she really excels in bringing out here.

And as others have noted, this reader too is hoping that the one female character introduced late in the book is truly the fit for the one remaining single Navarro sibling – and that we get to read that tale as well. Given the year spacing between Island Affair and this book, perhaps this time 2022? Until then…

Very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

Not An Actual Love Square, But A Solid Romance. I’m a math oriented dude. The imprecision of “love triangle” has always bothered me. For those, assuming both sexes are involved, you need two bi people and a straight person, at minimum. (There *are* possible variations, but a true love triangle would have Person A in love with Person B and Person C – *and* Person B and Person C in love with both Person A *and each other*.) “Love Triangles”, in the common parlance, are actually Love *Angles*, such that two points are connected at a common third point. Similarly, for this Love Square to work, it would really need 2 couples such that each couple is in love with each other *as well as* exactly one person in the other couple. Here, we get two side by side Love Angles such that *three* points are connected at a common *fourth* point.

Math technicalities and English imprecision aside, however, this was actually a solid romance tale of finding oneself and what one really wants that put an interesting spin on the colloquial “Love Triangle” by introducing a *third* man that the common woman falls in love with. And in some fairly direct ways, it actually parallels a lot of what Padma Lakshmi said about her own “love triangle” in her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate. You’ve got the guy that our female lead – Penny – has an instant connection with. Then you’ve got the guy that actively pursues her and they wind up together almost via fluke. Then you’ve got the guy Penny is introduced to and has a fun time with, but who isn’t interested in long term or commitment generally. And along the way, Penny gets thrust into situations she doesn’t always have complete control of, all while still trying to discover herself after having survived cancer at a fairly early age – mid 20s. The characters are all solid and interesting, and each of the guys makes very strong points about love and what matters. In the end, if you like romance novels at all, you’re probably going to enjoy this one. And if you don’t, give this one a chance – at least it has a few more-interesting-than-normal wrinkles. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams was originally written on December 18, 2020.

#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher


Once again we come to a Carina Adores Blog Tour, which are always awesome. Seriously, I haven’t encountered a bad book in this program yet, and I’ve found several authors doing this that have taken me to places I’d never been before – and that is always awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

This time, we’re looking at The Secret Inredient by KD Fisher.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun Foodie FF Romance. This is a lesbian romance where the two ladies are about as opposite as it gets – one is a trained chef working for a corporate restaurant group, the other is a legacy baker who took over and revitalized her mom’s shop. As a short romance, it works well in that it hits all the requirements of the genre (yes, including sex) and executes each solidly – but you’re not going to get the conflict and growth of a 100 page longer book. Though there are still significant, more complicated than Hallmarkie, conflicts here. Ultimately a fun book that hits all the right notes and even manages to highlight the particular region it features very well. Very much recommended.

And below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the front of the book (Chapter 2, IIRC):
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher”

#BookReview: The Second Chance Supper Club by Nicole Meier

Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything To Find Everything. Not that I haven’t lived this before. Not at all. Yes, this story of two sisters awkwardly reconnecting 3 yrs after a major fight that left them not speaking to each other somehow managed to resonate with a guy who only has brothers. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seriously, great job from new-to-me author Nicole Meier in crafting a very readable and relatable tale, that admittedly I wanted to stop reading at one point because it got a bit *too* real and brought back some difficult memories of my own. Hallmarkies and/ or foodies in particular will get a kick out of this one, but a strong book for any crowd I’ve ever come across. This is due to Meier’s skill in focusing on the very human even while also relishing the particulars she has set in motion here. Very much recommended.

This review of The Second Chance Supper Club by Nicole Meier was originally written on September 15, 2019.

#BookReview: Twain’s Feast by Andrew Beahrs

Twain Would Be Proud. This lighthearted yet fascinating look at the life of Mark Twain through the Feast he laid out in one of his books – but never actually ate himself – is a breathtaking. From describing the prairie hens as Twain would have known them (more multitudinous than even the famed bison) to San Francisco as Twain knew it to his beloved Mighty Mississippi. The combination of tales of food and food history with the history and writing of perhaps the world’s first true mega-celebrity is a delight to read, particularly as today is itself Thanksgiving Day 2018.

This review of Twain’s Feast by Andrew Beahrs was originally published on November 22, 2018.